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Kennedy (London)

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The Practical Guide to Modern Music Theory for Guitarists:  With 2.5 hours of Audio and Over 200 Notated Examples (Guitar Technique)
The Practical Guide to Modern Music Theory for Guitarists: With 2.5 hours of Audio and Over 200 Notated Examples (Guitar Technique)
Price: £4.97

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars LOOK NO FURTHER THIS METHOD IS AMAZING, 13 April 2016
I have never been able to understand or read music theory. I have learned to speak foreign languages well, but music theory has always defeated me. And this despite having played guitar for 20 years on & off.

I've tried private lessons, but the result was always the same: a barrage of information that I couldn't digest or apply. I tried printed guitar methods, instructional videos. You name it, I couldn't make head or tail of it.

Then i found this book by Joseph Alexander. I started on page 1. One little bit explained simply, then the next, added to this, then that - after 2 hours I had completely understood the logic of major/minor harmonisation, what the circle of fifths is in practice (a clue to Mr Alexander's generosity as a teacher: there is no picture of a circle covered in sharps & flats), and how key signatures work. It was as if the heavens had opened up and let the light in after years of being in the fog.

This is entirely due to Mr Alexander's presentation of the material. No presumptions are made of the reader: he gives you exactly what you need to understand each concept and NO MORE. This way, it is digestible and logical. The language is stripped down and functional: he does not talk as a musician to a musician, but as a highly organised teacher to a student.

To all budding guitarist auto-didacts out there, I cannot recommend this wonderful book enough. Finding a talented teacher is rare, but Mr Alexander is certainly that. I have since bought his books on technique and the CAGED system, and they just as methodical, simple and well-organised as this one.

Ten stars!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 22, 2016 12:34 PM BST

The Decline of Western Civilization Collection: 4 Disc Box Set [Blu-ray]
The Decline of Western Civilization Collection: 4 Disc Box Set [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Penelope Spheeris
Price: £29.99

3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Part 2 still rocks, 19 Nov. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is for just one film in this collection, Part 2: The Heavy Metal Years, which besides being a great documentary is just a fun film full stop. It chronicles the 'Imperial Era' of heavy metal in 1980s LA, when the wannabes were dressed up like little girls. The other two films I haven't watched.

Although there are some sane voices in the film - Lemmy and Dave Mustaine are cynical and clear-eyed players - the vast majority of the LA subculture on show in this documentary is borderline delusional, and it makes for amusing viewing. The film is very entertaining.

The knock against it is that in cutting it to play like a comedy - which 'works' because the characters are so outlandish (at least the parts they've shown) - in retrospect the director has neutered the subject a little. So many of the characters are brazenly opportunistic and creepy, in some cases openly nasty (Gene Simmons - blegh), but the film largely presents them as they would like to be seen, which is kind of as comic book characters and super heroes. What is definitely missing is a sense of what is behind the show. There are a lot of interviews in studios with nice lighting, or (in the case of the stars) in swanky locations. Maybe the filmmakers never saw anything else, or looked for it. Everything is played for laughs.

The one scene which the film offers as a rebuttal to the obvious comic aspects of all the dress up, is the guitar player from WASP trying to drink himself unconscious in his swimming pool, as his silver-haired mother sits and watches implacably. For one minute, the fantasies on show come crashing down and you see the man as a person.

I wish there was more of that insight - but like I said, it seems like they did the whole thing fast and cut together a lot of broad interviews with some concert footage. Still, a great time capsule from a largely undocumented era of American strangeness.

Star Wars: Battlefront (PS4)
Star Wars: Battlefront (PS4)
Offered by PROGAMES
Price: £23.48

110 of 130 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars GREED-OH. Shameless cash grab for the 'DLC', 19 Nov. 2015
Ok, first off - I really like Battlefront so far. Beautiful, fast, incredible sound design. 'BLAST' is the best death match I've played in ages. They nailed the Star Wars feeling.

But the content in Battlefront is THIN, as has been widely reported. And pretty much the first thing you see once the game has booted up is "BUY SEASON PASS" actually built front and centre into the menu screen. That content costs an extra 40 quid. The "DLC" in this case would appear to be better called "The Other Half Of The Game".

So if you want the season pass and the 'full game', please be aware that the ACTUAL price of battlefront will be closer to a hundred quid. A lot of the press is giving them a 'free pass' and saying 'it's great fun!' which it is. But it's also a transparent cash-grab. Consumer beware.

Compared to something like BLOPS 3, or the Witcher 3, or MGSV, Battlefront isn't just stingy - it's ridiculous.

I love the game, but at the same time feel ripped off.
Comment Comments (14) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 30, 2015 2:03 PM GMT

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell [Blu-ray]
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Alan Bentley
Price: £15.99

1 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A great story idea executed terribly, 12 Nov. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Was really looking forward to this, as I loved the story idea. I hadn't read the book, so I had no preconceptions other than a willingness to be transported. Unfortunately the first episode was a charmless dud.

The main problem was that for a show about magic, there was no atmosphere. Just plot, plot, plot. It was dull and confusing, despite the attempts to whip things up graphically. I admire Eddie Marsan, but he is not a leading man. The other actors overplayed everything. It was like pantomime. The arrival of the man with the echoey voice was the nail in the coffin. In fact the whole show seemed silly - as though they'd made it for the same audience that devours doctor who. I didn't bother with episode 2, as I moved onto Season 5 of Breaking Bad instead.

Xbox 360 500GB Console with Fable: Anniversary & Plants vs. Zombies
Xbox 360 500GB Console with Fable: Anniversary & Plants vs. Zombies

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still Great After All These Years, 12 Nov. 2015
This is a fantastic late model xbox 360. I've had 3 xbox consoles over the 360 gen. The 120GB Elite from 2010 was my workhorse for the most time, but it sounded terrible - like an aeroplane taking off, even with disks installed to the drive. that fact alone pushed me towards a PS3 over time, despite the fact that 1. the dualshock is second rate 2. last gen multi-platform games run best on xbox, which is a shame because I love my PS3 but hell does Red Dead Redemption look sloppy on it.

Having moved onto a PS4, and with no intention of getting an Xbone with backwards compatibility, I wanted a new 360 to replay the classics on. I chose the Slim E model, which has a nice small box form factor. What I can say for sure is that:

- the late Slim E model is significantly quieter than the original pre-2010 Xbox. This was my main reason for buying one. I have read that it is not much quieter than the S model Slim (the one with the curves and chrome edges). But during gameplay with pre-installed games, I don't notice any sound from it in the open a couple of meters away. The Elite you could hear in the other room!
- the 500GB hard drive is fantastic for digital games. On 360, most big games have a less than 7GB install size, so that is a LOT of room. Loading times are fast - from my feeling, games are loading quicker than they did on my old elite.
- the machine itself is small and discreet, which is important to me because I hate all these large black boxes sitting around.

Having bought a new 360 two years already into 'next gen', I can say that it's still a fantastic gaming platform, with a ton of great titles going for cheap and quality service and infrastructure still in place with Xbox live. I'm sure it'll remain a pleasure well into the future.

Batman: Arkham Knight (PS4)
Batman: Arkham Knight (PS4)
Offered by games-n-console-land
Price: £17.27

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A big step backwards for the Bat(mobile), 17 Oct. 2015
Loved Arkham Asylum, the original game. It was brilliant, coiled, tense, the fighting felt amazing. It had a super story, and overall you felt like you were Batman.
Arkham City made everything bigger and more generic. I had no affection for it, even if the game was generally ok.
Arkham knight has amazing production value, but they forgot that people have to PLAY these games. The controls are insanely complicated, and to me an almost complete barrier to gameplay half the time. Who designed this? Haven't any of the designers ever played a driving game? How can the batmobile, which is such a huge part of the game unfortunately, be so lame to control!?!? No wonder so many batman fans are p******d - everything in this game just got more complicated. Nothing in my opinion got better.

The combat is overly complicated and stressful, it used to be about rhythm and direction but there's no way to get into a rhythm where every punch requires 2-3 three simultaneous inputs!!!!! Seriously, unless you're one of those people who likes to master japanese fighting games, stay away from this -- despite its pretty surface, it's really not well designed for the player at all, and as many people have pointed out, everything is very poorly explained. You never really know what's going on as the main story has no real hooks, just a bunch of melodramatic events (does ANYONE in video games know about dramaturgy?), as a result it's utterly unemotional, so the story feels like a drag.

Graphics: highly detailed, but dull in the end. The action always takes place at night, and this just gets tiring: great art direction is always an organisation of contrasts, but everything in this game looks the same after an hour. There are no day for night cycles like in GTA or the masterful Red Dead Redemption.

The game seems to have been made only for hardcore survivors of the other titles in the series. For everyone else, the point at which this game becomes fun - i.e when you feel like you've got your head around the controls and can just go with it -- well, I never really hit that. I'm very disappointed, as I'd been hoping they'd return to the simplicity of the original game. By comparison, this is a giant hodge-podge of unfinished ideas for a batman game. I got halfway through and ditched it for Witcher 3, a much better game in every respect.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 12, 2016 6:41 AM GMT

Persona 4 Golden (PlayStation Vita)
Persona 4 Golden (PlayStation Vita)
Price: £18.91

0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Really guys?, 1 Aug. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I have a Vita which I use on long haul flights, I read about people flipping out over Persona 4, so O put two and two together. Well I've tried it a few times. To me it seems like nothing more than a silly time-sink, the definition of dispensable entertainment.

The Last of Us: Remastered (PS4)
The Last of Us: Remastered (PS4)
Offered by Signyt
Price: £23.18

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars PEERLESS AND EMOTIONAL, 1 Aug. 2015
What's so special about this game is that it works both as a survival horror game and as a grippingly emotional story.

The Story (no spoilers)

The opening prologue is a masterpiece of both storytelling and game design. It presents rising action that escalates to a shocking and emotional conclusion, and immediately sets up the rest of the story. 15 minutes into the game, I was doing what I usually do during a well-told film: I was anticipating and looking forward expectantly to the rest of the adventure.

As if that wasn't surprising enough in a videogame, the game makers went on to do something 99% of Hollywood filmmakers fail to master: they refused to play to my expectations, they paced the dramatic peaks and valleys properly, they used humour effectively as emotional relief, and they constantly surprised me.

I can honestly say that the direction the story took, and its eventual outcome, was utterly unexpected and genuinely morally upsetting. It was not just unexpected for a video game - it's the kind of ending you'd need a Roman Polankski to pull off successfully in a movie. So as a piece of storytelling, TLOU for me is the near-equal of No Country For Old Men, or Chinatown, or The Road in its sober and morally ambiguous intentions. In the video game world, this makes it instantly the Citizen Kane of video games, because the dramaturgy of most games is worse than in kindergarten books. In this respect, it's absolutely peerless.

The Game

The gameplay - third person exploration, collecting, shooting, stealth, light puzzle solving - is extremely solid. It is, I think by design, stressful overall.

Gunplay is violent. I would say that it is easily the most violent game I've ever played, simply because the violence is never allowed to be fun. It is consistently shocking and visceral: after 10 hours of game time, I found myself in a surprise face off with three men in the snow storm level, and dispatched them messily with an axe and a gunshot to the head. I was left not victorious, but sickened from the sounds of the axe blow and the blood pouring out of the body in the silence after it had hit the floor.

The sound details in this game which produce this level of realism are incredible. It's a bold decision, and it supports the story. Unlike the recent Tomb Raider reboot, which begins realistically but descends quickly into a silly turkey shoot in the jungle, the game makers at Naughty Dog decided to keep their game stone cold sober all the way through. I can imagine some people would not like it, as it is essentially a mood belonging to film, not games, and it is at odds with the players desire to enjoy the action. But even though Joel and Ellie do kill people, it is always presented somehow as desperate measures, not power plays for the benefit of the player, and so the business end of the story stands up: we believe these characters as people, not as video game avatars.

Overall, I would say this is easily the best narrative game I’ve ever played, and certainly the most emotionally affecting. There’s literally nothing else to compare it to in video games, which is a shame; it makes me wonder if the trick could ever be pulled off twice.

Transformers Generations Leader Class Jetfire Figure
Transformers Generations Leader Class Jetfire Figure
Offered by Styled4Traders UK
Price: £31.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars TOUGH AND AWESOME, 7 Jun. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Best Transformer we've bought so far for our boy. Detail is fantastic, it looks awesome as a robot or a fighter jet, and it is very well made.

Devil May Cry: Definitive Edition (PS4)
Devil May Cry: Definitive Edition (PS4)
Price: £16.92

4 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I really wanted to like it but..., 15 Mar. 2015
I am a huge action game fan. Mainly, I've spent countless hours playing Bayonetta 1 and 2, which are absolutely superlative in this genre. I have never played the earlier Devil May Cry games, so this review is about the game and design, not it's place in the canon.

My quick capsule review is: this is a good fighting game made lame by clunky controls. Which was not at all what I expected.

So the definitive editions big seller: 60 fps. This is a clear success. The game now runs at the high framerate action games like this require. I had tried DmC on the X360 a year ago, but after having played God of War 3 and Bayonetta at 60fps, DmC was like driving a skoda after a month in a BMW and I got rid of it.

Graphics: they're just fine - it's Unreal 3, so you know it works - but the art direction is very disappointing. It has a certain look, but the world to me very often felt empty, despite the colour. It's essentially modern day cloaked in horror, scrubbed up to seem surreal, but it feels like a surface, and not an environment. God Of War, Bayonetta, are games are set in fully realised foreign worlds that are fascinating to visit and toy around in. DmC is full of…corridors. I literally can't think of one single moment in Bayonetta when I was in a corridor.

Fighting system: this is where this game falls short for me. DmC feels clumsy to play, regardless of the 60fps. You just have to press too many buttons at all times to do the simplest things.

First layer: you have to press at least two buttons to make an attack with all weapons except the vanilla sword, Rebellion. Layered on top of that system, there's a grapple system, where you use similar yet slightly different combinations to grapple (not grappling is not an option -- too much platforming). Mixed into that layer is the boost glide system, where you have to modify the button combinations yet again in mid-air to make a forward thrust… Basically I think I died more in this game from failing to properly absorb the bottom combos for 'jump forward' than I did from big ass demons!!!

There are so many combos for basic manoeuvres… it felt like a layer of annoyance between me and the game. Compare this to Bayonetta. Only two weapons at a time, mapped A / B. Punch or kick, and evade. One bottom to jump. You can switch weapon sets, but the top layer always stays the same. That's all there is to it, so within five minutes you've absorbed the controls. Now you can get into the combos. Which brings me to my next disappointment with DmC...

All the weapons and combos are locked behind experience! You have to play through at least once to open the combos up. Why?!? Bayonetta proved years ago that starting an action game with every single combo available to you from mission 1 was a good thing - the controls were so easy you could get into combo experimentation form the very start. You added weapons, and therefore variety, as you went, but the underlying structure was universal and open.

In DmC, it's the other way around. You have almost no combos and you spend your time instead absorbing the control system!

Enemies: generally unimpressive and somewhat indistinct. They all look brown, and a lot of creatures feel like rejects from resident evil games (man with bag on head and chainsaw! Fat blob that pukes and charges!). The first 6 missions have you fight the same vanilla enemy types over and over again - it's just a bit unimaginative. None of them make you feel apprehensive, like you have to raise your game. I played on the hardest available difficulty from the off, and they were all pushovers. Slow, clunky, easy to read. Even after dozens of hours playing Bayonetta, I can still get creamed by Grace and Glory if I don't concentrate - they're so fast and aggressive. Not to mention the insane enemy sets you have to overcome in Bayonetta 2. DmC suffers so badly by comparison, it's a real shame. I tried the game on the 'harder' difficulties (heaven and hell etc) but while the hits-to-die ratio tightens, enemies remain more or less as they were: uninspired. That's a big problem for a game like this, as most of the fun is in looking forward to the badasses you have to take down.

Feedback is also very mixed - hit SFX are good and violent, the Arbiter axe in particular feels very weighty and nasty, but there are bizarre fails. Evading feels weak for example. If you dodge at the right time, you are offered a window of high damage opportunity, but unlike Bayonetta's witch time, it's unclear for how long and what exactly the effect is. Also parrying is weak. It's basically a lock-swords-at-the-exact-same-time deal, meaning it's actually quite random, as the game wants you to attack quickly, not rhythmically. Again, Bayonetta solved this problem beautifully. You parry by pushing toward an enemy while you attack, letting you combine offence and defense with proper timing. That game encourage both rhythm and speed in a unique way.

The other thing that I think was a mistake in DmC, though probably unavoidable, was that the developers tried to tell a logical story to accommodate all the fighting. The story does make sense, but it's so self-serious and bloated that it takes a precedence that it really shouldn't. I very quickly learned to just skip the cut scenes. They're the usual adolescent crap, believe me.

The general thrust of my review is, if I have to say it, DmC just too easy, and too vanilla compared to its peers. I think if you like an easy win, you could say it's fun - it passes the time. But once you've played either Bayonetta, or especially Bayonetta 2, there's no going back. Those games are so full of colour, amazement, and unparalleled depth and variety, that DmC doesn't stand the comparison.

My recommendation, which is highly unreasonable but very honest: if you are seriously into action games, get a WiiU so you can play Bayonetta 2.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 24, 2015 1:05 AM GMT

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